In light of the recent display of violence by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, two college sophomores organized a community event in Arlington, Virginia on Sunday, August 13 with over 200 attendees. Julian Lopez-Leyva and YCA staffer Justin Wu facilitated this gathering to stand in solidarity with those affected by the “alt-right” rioters in Charlottesville. Although many American young people never expected to witness such open expression of racism and nazism in their lifetimes, students like Wu and Lopez-Leyva have been instrumental in showing that this injustice should not and will not be tolerated in American society.
Julian Lopez-Leyva delivered a powerful speech at the event:
If I could circumscribe the term “Enough,” so bold it is, with a point in time, it would be today; the immediate, right-nowness of this moment. I do not sweat and I do not doubt that this moment will rock so softly on by. Because in the broad brush of American history, there have been several instances of great women and men who have, at their great moments in time, declared, like you and I, “enough.” Names and faces whose actions were immortalized in the American psyche, from Cesar Chavez to Martin Luther King; from Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks. Hundreds, if not thousands of others have moved to unify, not divide. In times of great crises, under unimaginable pain, flaring emotions, and loss of life. These men and women stood up, and in possessed resilience, did not rest until a new day had come, and that new day was brighter than the one just before it.
Charlottesville allows us to recognize the wars we still fight, and have been fighting in this climbing vine of history. I see wars of varying proportions, fought physically and verbally, both on and off American soil. Crime epidemics; hostage crises; President Nixon’s War on Drugs; the Cold War; the odd amnesia of the Korean War; the two World Wars, bridged by America’s Great Depression. But, stretching beyond the breadth of a century, we meet perhaps the most reverberant of all national crises: the American Civil War. This was a war for the literal liberty of men, the sanctity of life, and the unity of our country. But my friends I fear that we have entered another civil war, and one which many a historian could aptly connect to the insolvency of the last one. For we too fight for the liberty of men, and the sanctity of life and the unity of country, we fight now, an American Moral Civil War.
To see videos and images of their barbarity in Charlottesville, playing out under our sweet Virginia skies, reminds me of places and times I never was.
We are not so unlike each other.
What tragedy transpired in Charlottesville last night was abominable, but what is more abominable than that is how we, as a country, have so suddenly found ourselves here, and allowed ourselves to get here. We have, as a people seemingly united, set our corners and played only the grounds we know. We recoiled from the stranger and subsumed into the familiar loneliness of our own respective crowds. And in some great fear of losing our way, we have lost our way. Now I stand firmly in defense of free speech, even hate speech; but I will erase from this earth before I stand in defense of violence. Violence is the antithesis of this American way, yet it has found itself, so slimy, seeping into the mind of our national psyche and into the veins of our most frightened, confused and disillusioned fellow citizens. Charlottesville was a testament to that, but it wasn’t the first. But if we have anything to say about it, and we truly act to cooperate relentlessly in civility and compassion, I promise you brothers and sisters that it may very well be the last.
But in the videos and photographs published over the course of the last few days, we have seen some of the hollow faces of hatred. But we must not neglect the pervasiveness of hatred, which reaps good souls and stales loving hearts. And although hatred is not the entirety of a person, be weary, for its strain breathes so heavy at the neck of our neighbors, our countrymen, our politicians, even ourselves. Let us be resolute in confronting it, both between others and within the dimensions of our minds. Through gentle gestures of kindness and compassion can we finally find a country unified, bent away from the tendrils of madness. But for now, in addressing the multi-faceted face of bigotry, violence and hatred, I must echo in the words of our governor, “Go home. You are not wanted in this great Commonwealth … there is no place for you here, and there is no place for you in America.”
Let us rush and run to backyard sheds, to find our gloves, and to uproot the odd seeds of anger. Because on the fertile soil, stuck cement and senatorial chambers, it is action, not apathy, that flowers a brighter world. Through substantive legislation we must do away with economic inequality, which knocks at the doors of every neighborhood this country bears. Do away with our broken criminal justice system, which cages approximately one of every one-hundred ten adults, disproportionately vicious to black and brown communities. Act against drug and alcohol abuse, which tears apart families and devastates communities. Invest again in equal access to education, because our children will come to inherit the earth. And rediscover the potential in our bare humanity; finding power not in pride and products, but in the depth of our words and the endurance of our actions. Confront the disillusioned, philosophize with the homeless and attend to the lonely. I sustain as an impermeable truth that we must come to find: the answer is not up in the sky, grown in the ground, or even in a book. The answer is in other people.
The condition we exist in; the human condition – has unrelenting potential. Let us the means to seek it!
We who have lifted from the ground and out the cave. Who have found the forces of fire, gas, and electricity. Who of ripe soils harvested great crop: the lifeline to the vastness of our human kind.
We who have braved the hopeless oceans, the highest mountains and the driest deserts. Who from these terrible terrains set down adobe, brick and wood to bear our children, play our cards and ease our old.
We who have founded academies, cemented law, cured diseases, erected pulpits of international cooperation, climbed the skies and stabbed at the realm of space.
And so our invulnerable intellectual and organizational capacities must be kindled, not condemned. And to kindle them is to look at your brother or your sister from every color and creed, every political slant and economic circumstance. From the Baltimore blocks to the San Diego ‘burbs, from the shacks that line the Mississippi delta to the mansions that curve the Massachusetts cape. From sea to shining sea, and see in them the propensity to achieve, the capacity to understand; see in the twinkling blinks of their multi-colored eyes: see yourself.